Well, friends, we are less than a week away from the Dawgs' opening date against the Buffalo Bulls. Today we wrap up our previews of Georgia's opponents with Georgia Tech. There seems to be a prevailing sense among the Bulldog faithful that Tech is not a rival to be taken seriously, but I was heartened by the outpouring of hate for the Jackets in the semifinals of Dawg2011's Bracket of Hate, especially considering the strength of the competition. (I, too, hate Auburn, too.) Yes, UGA leads the all-time series 62-37-5, but consider the cumulative average point totals are Georgia 17.7 to Tech 14.1, an average margin of victory much closer to a field goal than a touchdown, let alone all-time world-beating dominance. And yes, the Dawgs under RIcht's leadership appear to have had Tech's number, winning ten times in eleven tries, but half of those wins were by a margin of eight points or less. It is, of course, noteworthy that the Jackets' sole win in this time frame was by a mere three points, and one of the Georgia wins was by a ridiculously delicious 44 points.
With an entire season of games between now and 24 November, it's impossible to talk with any reliable level of confidence about how the teams will match up come game time in Athens. Player and scheme development and injuries, for example, are complete unknowns, let alone the intangibles resulting from how each team's season will have played out by that time. As always, we'll have a closer look at the game specifics during the week of the game, but for now, I offer a few items of interest about the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and, specifically, the 2012 version.
Location: Atlanta, Georgia (Grant Field)
Mascot: Yellow Jackets
Colors: White and Old Gold
Race: Halfling (Jerren)
2011 Record: 8-5 (5-3 in ACC)
Offense: Georgia Tech runs the ball. Since the Pouting Genius took over the head coaching gig on the Flats in 2008, Tech has finished each season ranked in the top five nationally in rushing yards per game: 5th, 2nd, 1st, 3rd, and 3rd. In passing yards per game? 117th, 113th, 119th, and 108th. Considering that
The rushing attack, however, is not unproven. Tech's 2011 rushing leaders, QB Tevin Washington, A-back Orwin Smith, and B-back David Sims, who cranked out a combined 7,838 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2011, all return. Sims had surgery his summer to repair a stress fracture in his leg, keeping him out of fall practice, but he should be back on the field well before the November date with Georgia, racking up yards like last year. There's no reason to think that, in the meantime, the next B-backs in line won't step in adequately, because ...
The Jackets should field a formidable offensive line. Center Jay Finch (RS Jr.), left guard Will Jackson (RS Jr.), and All-ACC right guard Omoregie Uzzi (RS Sr.) are back, along with ample experience behind them and at the tackles. I subscribe to the notion that games are won in the trenches, and nowhere is that more important than in a Paul Johnson offense. The guys carrying the ball get credit for the stats, but they have to have somewhere to go. Call the offense what you want -- flexbone, triple option, or anything else -- but what you typically see on the field is QB-keep, hand-off, dive, pitch, or some oft-deceptive combination. It seems simple enough, but it works well only when you have offensive linemen, among the most intelligent players by far on any team, who can understand the complexities of the scheme and options. Tech's O-line does not merely knock open holes: they must block a defense's first point of attack, disengage, and be ready to block downfield, all with a number of possible running plays going on behind and around them that are subject to change within the first couple of seconds after the ball is snapped. The initial blocking and disengagement notoriously requires skating a fine line of technique (cut- versus chop-blocking) approaching the dangerous and illegal -- disabling a defensive lineman for a few seconds of a play is often perilously close to disabling him, period. But with the returning talent, size, and depth on the line, Tech's offense should be at least as good as ever.
Defense: On the other side of the ball, Tech's "year 2" under defensive coordinator Al Groh's base 3-4 scheme was not what you might call magical. They ranked 44th in yards per game allowed and 60th in points per game allowed. This year, we're hearing the same kind of "we think the guys are starting to get it" talk we heard from our own transition to Todd Grantham in the spring and fall of 2011. Tech will be doing without standout linebacker Julian Burnett, who suffered a serious neck injury last season, but All-ACC linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu is back along with six other players with starting experience. By the time the Jackets come to Athens, we should have a much better idea of whether the returning experience means more of the same less-than-stellar defense or improvement with greater scheme familiarity.
Game Outlook: There's a fair of discussion among Tech's fans and its opponents' fans about whether having time to prepare for Johnson's offense, which is a good bit different from what teams prepare for the rest of the season, is important. Johnson's dismal 0-4 bowl record at Tech suggests that additional time helps. In that regard, it might be helpful that Georgia will have been preparing for an option-style attack for at least an extra week with Georgia Southern coming to Athens the preceding Saturday. Although the Jacket faithful keep telling us that a bajillion more plays are about to start pouring forth from the massive clipboard between Johnson's ears, confounding all comers, my admittedly limited viewing of the PJ offense leads me to conclude that I'll believe it when I see it. This will be the fifth game between Tech and Georgia since Johnson took the head coaching job and the third time since Grantham arrived to save our D. The game's never easy, but I feel as good as it's possible for me to feel about any game against Tech ever, especially this far in advance of it.
Predicted Final Score: None from me. Feel free to take a stab at it in the comments.
I apologize for the dearth of hatery in the post, but I figured there will be time, and it's worthwhile to have even my amateur analysis of actual game play. Please let some hate and mockery pour forth in the comments, and I specifically invite you to share your undoubtedly more competent thoughts about Tech's Xs and Os and the Jackets' upcoming season.